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What's a Fish's Favorite Color

Turns out it’s complicated

     I was casting to a rip-rapped, Bay shoreline laden with the remnants of an aged dock. There were multiple piers, railings and decks, long fallen into total disrepair. Curiously, there were no nearby buildings of any kind that explained the structure’s presence. It was, however, a white perch playground.
     It was also a hazardous place to throw a spinner-bait, but if one managed to keep the lure away from the pilings and planks there was a good chance that a thick white perch would ambush it. And if you were lucky and quick enough to keep the rascal from darting back into that submerged mess of timber, there was also a decent chance of bringing it to hand.
     The perch that frequented there were dark humpbacks and unusually powerful, probably from fighting the continual surges of wakes and waves that threatened to smash them into the same underwater structures that gave them sanctuary. 
     Having a good flood tide and being in the calm of a lee shore, the conditions were spectacular for white perch action that morning. I began my quest with a Capt. Bert’s spinner-bait in orange, black and gold, a color combination authored by Jamie Avedon, a young, local fishing guide with some very prescient instincts. The lure even featured his name, Jamie’s Halloween. 
     If there were any big white perch in residence, I was confident, this bait would entice them out. My second cast ended in a line-stretching strike. After a spirited battle and finally easing the fish close to the boat, I lifted it up and over the side. It was just under 10 inches but thick enough for a dinner invite.
     That’s when I noted the water: It was brown, really brown. Releases from the Conowingo Dam were dumping some ugly runoff from the Susquehanna into the Bay. 
     After hooking and releasing a half-dozen shorter fish, the action died off. Reeling up my line and intending to move on, I hesitated. That orange-and-black color combo had been my top scorer for the past few months. Could the stained water have affected the bite? 
     I had another light rod rigged with a bright-yellow spinner-bait, a Super Rooster Tail in the Clown Coach Dog pattern. That particular model had ruled on the Bay for years before Jamie’s Halloween pattern. I sent the bait sailing out to land just inches off of another group of half-submerged pilings.
     The hookup was so sudden I thought I had fouled the bait, but when I tried to pull it free a perch began a run that was soon pulling line off of my light reel with a lovely buzzing sound. After a careful battle I eased a golden-hued perch into my net. It was a 12-incher.
     After catching a surprising number of additional perch in that location, I switched to a bright chartreuse Super Rooster with a gold blade and black spots. I reasoned it would be even more visible in the off-colored water than the Clown. No dice, despite the extra contrast of the chartreuse body in the cloudy waters, it was the yellow color that the perch preferred.
     I tried a number of other lures over the next couple of hours, including spoons and small Rat-L-Traps, but that bright-yellow spinner-bait was the one that scored the most and the biggest. In one location, that was curiously bereft of any perch at all, I even hooked up and eventually landed a pair of 22-inch channel cats.
     The experience reminded me that while a great lure may be eclipsed by a newcomer, it will always have the potential of scoring big. With my fish cooler holding more than enough for two dinners, one of fried perch fillets and the other featuring some golden brown catfish fingers, I stowed my gear and headed for home.


Fish Finder
     The rockfish bite remains mediocre in the mid-Bay with 22-inch stripers being the average size fish landed the last few weeks. The bigger rock (30-inch plus) are to the north above Swan Point and the Patapsco or to the south around Poplar Island and Chesapeake Beach. 
     The mid-Bay is, however, increasingly experiencing keeper sized rockfish breaking on the schools of peanut bunker, silversides and anchovies moving about the mainstem and traveling down the shorelines, particularly early and late in the day. Casting to breakers can be an exhilarating experience on light tackle.      Try throwing Hogy Epoxy minnows or half-ounce Pline metal jigs around the edges of the bait schools or to the swirls and explosions of the feeding rockfish. Do not, however, motor directly into the action, as rockfish are sound-adverse when feeding on top. 
     White perch continue to please, and there are still spot and croaker in the area, but they remain mostly small and more valuable as bait than dinner. 
     Crabbing remains hit and miss but worth the effort to secure a good feast.